Laptop computers and Sun Ray cards

Up until the first of this month I worked at Sun Microsystems. We used Sun Rays which are basically terminals that I could put my smart card into and have my computing environment immediately available.  At Sun your smart card was your badge and it gave you access to your environment where ever you happened to be working. When you use a Sun Ray your whole computer is in a server room somewhere and the server just displays your environment where ever you are. Essentially your smart card is the key to accessing your computing environment.

Since starting at Intuit I’ve switched to a traditional Microsoft environment. What I’ve noticed though is that many people use their laptop the way I used to use a Sun Ray smart card. They plug the laptop into a docking station and then work on a terminal and  keyboard that is stationary in their office.

I totally understand that there are very basic differences in the two environments but if you think about it from a user perspective and don’t worry too much about where the CPU is located then you can  perhaps see the laptop and the Sun Ray smart card converging. in both cases you  plug them in and your environment shows up on  essentially a dumb terminal where ever you are.

How to Get Financial Planning Experience

I met with a Financial Planner last Friday
to discuss possible ways we could work together to allow me to get financial
planning experience and at the same time have the relationship be
advantageous for him. I had lots of questions about how financial
planning works and he was very informative. He is a fee only planner.
That means he doesn’t make any commissions from his clients investments.
He charges a fee to do a financial plan for a client and when the client
has him manage their assets he charges a fee based on a percentage of
assets under management.

If I wanted to work as an associate with his firm I would need to pass
my NASD series 65 license exam. Then as I brought clients in we would
work together to provide the services they needed and we would share the
fees. I would get experience and my clients would get the benefit of his
extensive experience. In a few years if I wanted to go out on my own I
could buy the clients back from him.

This planner uses mutual funds from Dimensional Fund Advisers to create
portfolios based on an asset allocation designed for the needs of each
client. Dimensional Funds are institutional funds with a very low cost
structure. Individuals can’t buy the funds directly but must work
through an adviser.

I really enjoy doing informational interviews. I not only learn a lot
but I also meet some very interesting people who are doing what I may be
doing some day. My plan has always been to do planning for an hourly fee.  I envision serving clients who don’t have big asset portfolios so I’m not at all sure working with this planner would be a fit for me. Plus I am not sure I would be very good at
bringing in clients with money to manage. On the other hand one of the big advantages of working with an
established planner is that since I only want to do planning part time for now
this would be a way to learn a lot and get experience.

I think I’ll just put all my energy into work for now. I am very committed to my new job at Intuit. I am working on
some very exciting things and that is my first priority.

Two Years

Two years ago today Duke and I were married. I’ve been thinking all day what I can say that won’t sound trite.  And I didn’t come up with anything. All I can say is I fell very very lucky and I can’t image being happier. So I guess I’ll be trite anyway. I wouldn’t have believed it but  🙂 Your dreams can come true it can happen to you!

Informational Interviews and Why I Blog

Last April I wrote a entry on my Sun Blog  about why I like to Blog. I want to add two things to that list based on my experience changing jobs and beginning to explore ways to get financial planning experience.

Blogging is a great way to reflect who you are to potential employers. When I first sent my resume to Intuit I also put the resume on my blog. In my cover letter I mentioned my blog. I know that the blog is not why I was hired but I know that my new boss read the blog and I think it helped me  market myself. I should note though that the purpose of the blog is not to market myself but because my blog reflects who I am it does in fact become a marketing tool.

Blogging helps you implement learn – teach – learn. I am a great believer in informational interviews. My daughters get sick of me urging them to set up informational interviews with  people who work in the fields they are interested in.  I’ve done a few informational interviews lately and I think blogging about them has been a great way to crystallize my learning.  Intuit talks about the idea of learn teach learn that is what blogging facilitates. First I learn something. Then I blog about it and as a result I learn more.

Scalability

When I looked for a definition of the word scalable I discovered it is a buzz word that hasn’t made it into the mainstream dictionaries. The webopedia definition says that scalable refers to how well a hardware or software system reacts to increased demands.

I was in a meeting the other day where scalability came up. I’m sure you’ve had those kinds of conversations. One person told their  scalability story and then the next person had a better one and so on. I mentioned the Vatican web site’s need to be scalable when the Pope died (Sun systems helped with that). Someone else mentioned Visa’s need to be scalable at Christmas time but  my favorite was the Intuit person who told us the very large number of income tax returns that Intuit’s TurboTax for the Web filed in the 36 hours before the filing deadline. The number of returns filed per minute was staggering. And as she said just imagine the consequences if the system had not been able to handle the load. I doubt that the IRS would have been very forgiving for late filings if the reason had been Intuit’s system failed. Luckily Intuit’s system is highly scalable and very reliable.

So I’d love to hear some other scalability stories. I bet there are some good ones out there.

Why Web Based Applications are Becoming so Popular

I’ve talked about the Application Service Provider (ASP) model in a previous post. When I say ASP model I mean not running the application or keeping my data on my computer but instead  letting the application company host the application so that all I have to do it access the application and my data through a browser. As I said I really like the advantages of storing my data on the web. I don’t have to do backups and it is accessible.  In a recent posting John Montgomery of Microsoft talked about why we continue to use ASP applications when the user interfaces and functionality aren’t as good as those for the applications hosted on our own machines. I think his reasons are valid although I never think about the technology catching up. For me the advantage of being able to access my data from any browser and having someone else host my application so that I don’t have to be a system administrator is incentive enough.  And in a lot of cases I think the applications are as good or better.

I mentioned Plaxo in my earlier post. I recently sent out an update with my new email address and phone number to everyone in my address book. It has been so much fun to get updates from all my friends and catch up on what they are up to. Plaxo provides functionality that I’ve never had on a locally based application.

Another ASP based application that I have been very impressed with in the short time that I have been aware of it is Right Now. It is customer support software that is used  by Intuit for Quicken Medical Expense Manager  and for  Quicken Rental Property Manager. Right Now provides an easy way to manage and update common questions and answers and the customer support user interface.

Another very successful ASP model software package is QuickBooks Online Edition.  In this case although the functionality is less than the desktop version I suspect that  the quality of  the application, the fact that the user doesn’t have to administer his or her system, and the ability to access the application from anywhere have led to the success of the product. I should note that although I work at Intuit I don’t work in the QuickBooks organization and my observations are very much those of an outsider.

Bottom line is that while some applications are still better on the desktop than being run through a browser there are many other applications that I would much rather run through the web.